In the wake of the recent Election Day results across the Midlands, we have a two-word reply to those who still think that off-year elections stir little voter passion — or that they largely serve to keep those who already hold power in power.
Here’s that two-word reply:
Do the skeptics need proof?
They should just look at Columbia City Councilman Moe Baddourah, a two-term incumbent whose established support in the local business community led to assumptions that he would be re-elected to his District 3 seat — despite having been previously suspended for a period following a misdemeanor domestic violence charge that was later dropped.
On Election Day District 3 voters chose business owner Will Brennan over Baddourah by a 2-to-1 margin; in fact, Baddourah ended up getting fewer votes than a third candidate, political novice John Loveday.
Do the skeptics need more proof?
Well, they should just look at incumbent Columbia City Councilman Howard Duvall, whose willingness to tackle tough issues — ranging from banning e-cigarettes to revising the all-night permit process for local bars — was expected to be the defining factor in helping him easily win another At-Large term.
On Election Day Duvall barely outpolled Sara Middleton, a millennial attorney and entrepreneur who finished less than 1,000 votes behind him; now Duvall and Middleton will face off in a Nov. 19 runoff election.
Still more evidence is needed to sway the doubters?
Well, they should just look at Irmo, where the voters booted out Mayor Hardy King — who lost to Councilman Barry Walker Sr. by a 2-to-1 margin — and replaced two sitting Town Council members with newcomers Erik Sickinger and Kelly Busch.
In their move to push three incumbents out and aside, Irmo’s voters were seeking to send a message that they had grown weary of the town’s growing status quo of divisiveness and controversy — and that they longed to have community leaders who just focused on “boring” stuff like making sure trash is picked up on time and road work is properly done.
Make no mistake about it: that message was delivered in Irmo.
Now add in the fact that the overall voter turnout in Columbia alone was nearly 16% — well above the tepid 7.9% turnout for the November 2017 election — and it’s clear that three lessons should be taken from Election Day 2019 across the Midlands:
▪ When it comes to the importance and significance of local elections, there is no such thing as an “off-year.”
▪ When it comes to the huge power that voters can wield in local elections simply by just voting in them, there is no such thing as an “off-year.”
And those who keep refusing to take those lessons seriously are, well, off-base.
(Editor’s note: This editorial was updated to correct inaccurate information in the original version regarding the period of time that Columbia City Councilman Moe Baddourah was suspended from City Council.)